So now that I had signed up to teach children in remote schools in Ladakh, the tickets had been booked, the countdown had begun, the question I asked myself was, what do I teach? 17000 ft Foundation has a pre-prepared reading program which you can follow and teach the kids. This includes reading a book of one of the 4 levels of GROW (Green, Red, Orange, White, with green being the easiest and white the toughest in terms of language) and having the children do a fun exercise at the end to test their comprehension of what you just taught them. The books are from Pratham and are available at the 17000 ft Foundation libraries set up at hundred schools across Ladakh. My Aunt and I thought we would also do something different along with the reading program.
We brainstormed and came up with many ideas, finally deciding on a module on the ‘solar system’ for younger children, and one on the ‘human body’ for children of higher classes.
Along with researching the topics and making actual booklets for each module, we downloaded videos with simple English explanations for the better understanding of each topic. We pored over websites and books in search of simple ways to teach the children simple lessons. Our focus was to instill the basic knowledge of both the Solar System and the Human Body.
The Solar System Song
The next hurdle was to find activities to accompany each module. They had to be easy to replicate, made from scratch, using easy to find materials and of course fun for the children. I thought up of the idea of making a life size chart of one of the children and then asking them to draw and stick the organs in the correct place along with a short write up on each organ. I even dug out, and took along, a small human body model that I had been gifted a number of years ago, so that the children could have some fun taking it apart and then assembling it.
Sujata Ma’am, one of the founders of 17000 ft Foundation, suggested we make a jigsaw on the solar system from scratch with the children. We did not know how difficult it would end up being, with just a scissor to cut through the cardboard. I even downloaded nursery rhyme videos for the kids of pre – primary classes. Finding videos with sub-titles, a slower pace and easy to understand accents was not that simple a task, but we managed to make a collection of a dozen such videos. Little did I know that this would, in due course of time, end with me knowing ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ better than any other song I have ever learned.
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
It was all engines go, frantic lists were being made and remade. One torch or two, Amar Chitra Katha comics and of course chocolates for the children. We had to use chocolates as bribes for them to answer questions and as ice breakers to get them to open up at first! And don’t forget the medicines, copious amounts of them; medicines for cough, medicines for cold, medicines for fever and of course the very essential Diamox for altitude sickness. We went to Ladakh perhaps better prepared as chemists than as teachers!
Here you can have a look at the teaching modules we prepared for volunteering with 17000 ft Foundation: